Variability in intertidal communities along a latitudinal gradient in the Southern Ocean
Despite being one of the most intensely studied habitat types worldwide, the intertidal region around Antarctica has received little more than superficial study. Despite this, the first detailed study of a single locality on the Antarctic Peninsula reported previously unanticipated levels of species richness, biomass and diversity in cryptic intertidal habitats. The current study extends the coverage achieved from this single locality. The intertidal zone at sites in the Scotia Arc, the Falkland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula was investigated. At all the study sites selected, a wide range of macrofauna was found inhabiting the littoral fringe. These communities, although generally cryptic and occupying predominantly the undersides of boulders and protected interstices, at some locations and sites were rich at multiple taxonomic levels. Across the study locations species richness in the intertidal zone ranged from 7 to 30 species. The highest species richness and diversity were found at high latitude localities, which experienced the highest physical disturbance due to ice scour, and appeared superficially to be denuded of life. Species assemblages varied with latitude with Adelaide Island having a high proportion of bryozoans relative to all other localities.